ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As newborns go, 6-foot-tall Malika is pretty big.
The baby giraffe was born Monday at the ABQ BioPark Zoo. “We are thrilled to welcome another healthy calf to the giraffe herd,” mammal curator Erin Flynn said Tuesday.
The healthy female calf was born to mother Camilla, and both mother and baby are doing fine, she said.
Because the gestation period of baby giraffes is 15 months, “the zoo keepers had a long time to think about names,” she said, adding that Malika means “Angel” in the Swahili language spoken in parts of Africa.
The zoo now has three adult female giraffes, one adult male and two calves, one male and one female.
“This is Camilla’s first baby, but she was around for Kumi’s birth in 2015 and Jambazzi’s birth earlier this year. She has benefited from watching June, an experienced mother, give birth and rear her calves,” Flynn said.
Malika’s father is Buccaneer, who has sired six calves, including males Jambazzi, who was born to mother June over the summer, and Kumi, born in 2015.
Last week, Kumi was relocated to the Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, Mich., as part of a breeding program there.
Malika, like the other giraffes at the ABQ BioPark Zoo, are reticulated giraffes, a name that comes from the shape of their markings, which tend to be more rectangular, Flynn said. There are nine subspecies of giraffes located throughout the African continent. Reticulated giraffes are mostly native to east Africa.
Baby giraffes of all species are generally about 6 feet tall at birth and weigh from 110 to 120 pounds, which seems pretty big until the size of a mature adult is considered. An adult male giraffe stands up to 19 feet tall and can weigh more than 4,200 pounds, while an adult female is a more dainty 15 feet tall and 2,600 pounds.
According to a number of wildlife conservation websites, giraffes in the wild live 20-25 years. The median life expectancy for giraffes in accredited zoos in America, Flynn said, is from 13.5 to 19.5 years.
As of 2015, the estimated number of giraffes of all species in the wild was about 97,600. They are considered a “vulnerable” animal because of loss of habitat, civil unrest in many of the countries where they are found, and because of illegal hunting, Flynn said.